Everyone has difficulty getting off to sleep or staying asleep from time to time, but if you suffer from insomnia, ongoing lack of sleep and poor-quality sleep it can have serious effects on your health and wellbeing. This special report will discuss natural methods to improve your sleep quality and increase your life satisfaction.
Unfortunately, many people don’t get enough quality sleep. Research by the Sleep Health Foundation revealed that 60 per cent of Australians regularly experience sleep symptoms like having trouble falling and staying asleep, or waking too early and not being able to get back to sleep, and nearly 15 per cent have clinical insomnia.
Sleep is crucial for the proper functioning of every system in your body. It has an immediate effect on your mental and physical health . Your body regenerates and repairs itself during sleep, which also helps to strengthen your immune system. You create new memories while you sleep and cells release and produce proteins essential to growth and tissue repair.
How do you tell if your insomnia is serious?
Insomnia refers to a disorder of sleep that causes difficulty sleeping or keeping asleep. While acute insomnia is usually temporary, it can last several days to weeks. If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep for longer than three nights per week, or for three months or more, then you may be suffering from chronic insomnia.
People with insomnia often have trouble falling asleep and wake up several times a night. People with insomnia often complain about being awake for prolonged periods of time or having difficulty falling asleep. People suffering from insomnia often feel tired, have trouble concentrating, and are sleepy throughout the day. Anxiety and irritation are often exacerbated by a lack of sleep.
Common causes of insomnia
Insomnia may be due to a number of things, including trauma, emotional stress, depression and noises (partner snoring or noisy neighbours), new baby wakings, newborn baby wakings, shift work, excessive mental stimulation (being on phones or computers before bed) as well as certain chronic conditions like arthritis, sleep apnoea or restless leg syndrome, or chronic pain syndromes. Sleep problems can also be caused by prescription medications like beta-blockers, decongestants and bronchodilators. Smoking, excessive caffeine intake before bed and the use of recreational drugs may all lead to disruptions in your natural sleep-wake cycle.
Hormonal fluctuations can cause insomnia. Menopausal or postmenopausal women often complain of insomnia. This is due to a decrease in estrogen and progesterone and a decline in melatonin. Melatonin production naturally decreases as we get older. The hormone melatonin plays a crucial role in sleep. Poor quality sleep can be caused by menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats. Oestrogen is responsible for making serotonin. This neurotransmitter affects the quality of our sleep and can also influence our mood.
How does insomnia impact your health?
Sleep are vital for maintaining a healthy mind and body. Insomnia can cause severe and permanent damage to your mental and physical health.
Reduced restoration and revitalisation
Sleep is when your body restores, revitalizes, and recharges. Your immune system also gets re-energized. It is during this time that cells make and release essential proteins for tissue repair and growth. Poor sleeping habits are linked to a decrease in human growth hormone (HGH). HGH levels that are optimal for healing and recovery, as HGH regulates cell repair, is crucial. Your sleep cycles affect your HGH levels. Insomnia can lower HGH secretion.
Lacking sleep can lead to an increase in inflammation markers like interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein. Research has shown that chronic inflammation is increased by sleep deprivation. Studies show that chronic inflammation can increase the risk of developing depression, type-2 diabetes, and other chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease.
Impaired memory boost
Sleep can also help improve your brain’s abilities to remember and learn. Your brain creates new memories and processes the information you have received throughout your day while you are asleep. You will have trouble remembering new information if you don’t get enough sleep.
Faulty weight management
Not getting enough sleep may affect the regulation of leptin and ghrelin, hormones that control appetite. Ghrelin can increase hunger, while leptin will make you fuller and more satisfied. These hormones are naturally increased and decreased throughout the day by our bodies. A lack of sleep can cause an increase in ghrelin levels and decreases in leptin. This leads to increased hunger and decreased feeling of fullness.
Increased cortisol and anxiety
Your circadian rhythm governs your sleep-wake cycles and cortisol production. Cortisol’s lowest point is at night, peaking an hour before you get up. Insufficient sleep or other disturbances can cause your body to produce more cortisol. This could make it more alert and increase its production. This could lead to anxiety.
Insomnia can also result from hypoglycaemia at night. The adrenal glands release adrenalin and cortisol when blood sugar drops during the night. This signals that the body needs to get up and eat.
Lacking sleep may also speed up ageing. Your skin’s function and speed of aging can be affected by how well you sleep. Poor sleepers showed signs of skin ageing, as well as slower healing from environmental stresses such sun exposure.
Disrupted immune defences
Proper sleep is crucial for an immune system that functions well. Because your immune system produces cytokines, naive cells and other toxins while you’re asleep that aid in healing and fighting off infection and injury, sleep is often called “healing”. It is crucial to sleep well when you’re sick. Insufficient sleep can cause disruptions in the immune system, which will affect your ability to heal wounds or defend yourself against infections.
12 natural ways to treat insomnia
1 Optimise your bedroom for sleep
Set your bedroom up to be quiet and peaceful, and reduce your evening exposure to bright light. You can make sure that your bedroom is darkened by closing the lights and using blinds, curtains or eye masks. If you have to use earplugs, make sure they are on your ear. If possible, turn off your phone and computer at least two hours before you go to bed. Keep TVs and other electronic devices out of the bedroom. If you have a need for an alarm clock, you can charge your phone in another area. You should not use your bedroom for meditation, sleep or sex.
Keep your bedroom at a pleasant temperature. Cooler rooms will improve your quality of sleep. To improve your nighttime breathing and quality of sleep, you can open a window or use a fan. You should have high-quality bedding, pillows, and a mattress that’s comfortable.
2 Get optimal hours of sleep
Adults should aim to sleep seven to nine hours a night. The ideal sleeping hours for optimal healing and anti-ageing effects are between 10am and 6am. You should try to be asleep between 10pm and 11pm to get a good boost of HGH. The HGH levels peak around midnight, so it is important to get enough sleep before that time. You should try to maintain a regular sleep routine by getting up and going to bed at the same times each morning. You can still get good sleep even if it isn’t every night.
3 Establish a relaxing bedtime routine
There are many ways to relax before bed: read, meditate and write in gratitude journals. You can also take a bath using calming essential oils. Essential oils of lavender have a relaxing effect on the nervous systems, which makes them ideal for those with sleep disorders and nervous tension. The relaxing effects of lavender can help you fall asleep and relax. A warm bath with a few drops or oil in the morning or evening could be a good option. You can also place dried lavender next to your bed in the night.
4 Limit blue light at night
Blue is one colour in the spectrum of light. Blue light comes from the sun, which is its main source. The sun’s blue wavelengths can be beneficial in the daytime as they increase alertness and mood. You should get at least one hour of sunlight every day. Blue light at night can disrupt your circadian rhythm and cause disruptions. The exposure to sunlight in general reduces your secretion of melatonin. This hormone is important for your circadian rhythm and helps you to sleep. The most effective way to suppress melatonin is by using blue light. Sleep problems are linked to blue light coming from electronic devices (TVs, smartphones, LED lights, fluorescent lamps, and mobile phones). Blue-blocking glasses can prove to be extremely beneficial if you are working at the computer, or viewing TV at night. A blue light filter can be used on both your phone and computer to dimming your screen.
5 Cut down on caffeine
If you have trouble sleeping, you might want to cut back on caffeine and any other caffeine-containing drinks and foods. Too much caffeine can make it difficult to fall asleep, which will affect the quality and depth of your sleep. Caffeine can increase stress hormones, and decrease the efficiency of the hormone Adenosine. This will give you calmness. Avoid caffeine-containing beverages like coffee and soft drinks, such as black tea or energy drinks, if you are having trouble sleeping.
6 Enjoy calming teas
Drinking soothing, caffeine-free teas such as passionflower and camomile before you go to bed can help relax your nervous system and ease the transition to a peaceful sleep.
7 Take tryptophan
There’s an old saying that warm milk can make you fall asleep. It is necessary to produce serotonin (a brain neurotransmitter responsible for calming the body and inducing sleep) and melatonin (a sleep-inducing neurotransmitter). Almonds, eggs, peanut butter, tomatoes, chicken, egg, and brown rice are all good sources of tryptophan. A warm glass of milk, whether almond, cow’s or soy, with one teaspoon cinnamon or yoghurt with bananas and crushed almonds can be a good nighttime snack that will help you fall asleep.
8 Limit alcohol
You may believe that drinking a couple glasses at night will make you more relaxed, and help you fall asleep faster. However, it could actually cause you sleep problems. Alcohol intake at night can disrupt your REM stage, the deepest and most peaceful phase of your sleep. Drinking alcohol regularly can cause insomnia and other sleeping problems.
9 Boost melatonin
Melatonin, an important hormone produced at night in order to promote deep sleep. This hormone cycle is affected by the time of day. The natural rise and fall of melatonin in the afternoon is reflected in its levels in the morning. You can boost your melatonin levels by increasing sunlight (especially early in the day), meditation, and decreasing alcohol and stress intake. Certain foods such as almonds, walnuts and bananas can also help increase melatonin levels. The body’s melatonin levels have been shown to be significantly increased by drinking tart cherry juice. To help shift work and jetlag, melatonin supplements have become very popular. Research has shown that melatonin may improve sleep quality for people with sleep disorders. Melatonin can decrease the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, and also increase your total sleep time.
10 Take a magnesium supplement
Magnesium can be considered an “anti-stress” nutritional because it calms and supports the nervous system. This is a benefit for those who have trouble falling asleep. Taking a magnesium supplement is recommended if you suffer from insomnia — the recommended dosage is 400mg of elemental magnesium before bed.
11 Supplement with GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid)
GABA, a key inhibitory neurotransmitter which helps to regulate the brain’s activity and nervous system activity is important. GABA reduces neuron firing and helps to promote sleep. GABA supplementation can cause a sedative effect. This makes it an extremely popular sleep aid.
12 Try herbal remedies for insomnia
Herbal teas can also be used as capsules or tinctures to treat sleep disorders. These are the most popular botanicals that herbalists and Naturopaths recommend to help with insomnia.
- Camomile (Matricaria recutita) has been used for centuries for its calming and anti-inflammatory properties, where it has been prescribed for insomnia and nervous complaints. Camomile is mildly sedative and promotes calmness. This helps to ease anxiety while promoting restful sleep. You can enjoy camomile as either a morning tea or a fluid extract of 1-4mls 3 times per day.
- Kava (Piper methysticum) is native to the South Pacific Islands, where it has been used for centuries as a medicine and as a part of important ceremonies. Kava is calming for the nervous system and produces brainwave changes similar to that of valium or other calming medications. Kava is a natural stress reliever, helping to reduce anxiety and sleeplessness as well as muscle tension and other symptoms related to stress. Kava can be taken as a tea or in liquid extract tablets. It is usually consumed at 2 to 3 mls per day. You should look for high-quality Kava Extract or Supplement.
- Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) was used in folklore in pillows to help people fall asleep. The highly fragrant lavender flower is often used to help with anxiety, depression and insomnia. Inhaling lavender essential oil has a calming and soothing effect on the nervous system and mind. This helps to relax and boosts mood. A massage with lavender essential oil at night can help you sleep better and reduce anxiety. Make a soothing massage oil by adding two drops lavender essential oil to one tablespoon of almond oil. You should not take lavender essential oil internally. However, lavender flowers can be used in teas or supplementation.
- Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a lemon-scented herb and member of the mint family that has been long used for its soothing medicinal qualities and aromatic properties. Herbalists love lemon balm for anxiety and insomnia. The nervous system is calmed and relaxed by lemon balm. The active ingredient rosmarinic acid, which increases GABA availability, is found in lemon balm. Lemon balm can be used as a culinary herb in soups, salads and other dishes. It is also available as a fluid extract of 2-4mls 3 times per day or as tea.
- Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is used for its sedative and anxiety-relieving properties. Passionflower is a natural tranquilizer and supporter of the nervous system. This makes it incredibly useful for relieving anxiety and nervous tension. Passionflower can also be used to treat insomnia. It is known for its ability to help you transition from sleepless nights into a restful one. The University of Maryland Medical Center has found passionflower to be as effective in anxiety relief as benzodiazepine drugs. Passionflower can be taken in tea or as a liquid extract of 0.5-1ml, three times daily.
- Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) is an American herb used traditionally by Indian tribes as a sedative. Today, herbalists use skullcap for anxiety, depression and insomnia. You can drink skullcap as tea, or as fluid extracts of 2-4mls every day.
- Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a well-known herb used by herbalists today to treat insomnia and sleeping difficulties, due to its mild sedative and tranquilising effect. This herb is able to help you fall asleep, without making you feel sleepy the next day. It’s not like pharmaceutical alternatives. Because it maintains brain levels of GABA, Valerian can also be used to treat anxiety. Valerian is available in two forms: a single dosage before going to bed and a three-time daily dose for anxiety.
- Ziziphus (Ziziphus jujuba) is a Traditional Chinese Medicine that has a long history of use for the treatment of insomnia due to fatigue. Ziziphus is a natural sedative and can be found in many TCM sleep formulas. Ziziphus is known to improve sleep quantity and quality.
References are available upon request.